It's the 21st century yet cake slavery is rife? Cake making on the scale we see it today is HUGE. Back in 2010 when I started Pretty Witty Cakes (and long before Pretty Witty Academy or my online tutorial and business school existed), it was not a huge industry.
I remember that between 2011 and 2014, the industry grew so quickly that students who attended my classes came from 37 different countries. By 2014 someone had attended my classes in person from every single county in the UK.
That was how fast the industry grew.
Cake shows started to pop up all over the world, the cake making industry began to really blossom. People across the world wanted to make cakes and make them well. They enjoyed it. Hobbyists and professionals were all in it together working alongside each other.
Hobbyists then became professionals and new hobbyists joined in. At Pretty Witty Cakes our members grew and grew and in 2012 I launched an online educational school for cake makers. Within 3 years we had members logging in from over 100 countries. That is awesome. It is uniting. It shows the huge STRENGTH this cake making industry has as a group.
I have seen people support cake makers who live 1000s of miles away via facebook. I have seen cake makers rally together to help someone suffering something as tragic as a bereavement or cancer or something as trivial as a bad hair day.
It is so inspiring.
It is what makes us human.
I have seen people on my personal facebook page laugh with me when I post silly things my kids did and I have laughed with other people about what they might share. We talk about cake and we talk about our lives - together, across the globe. I know of no other community like this.
If there is one thing we, as a global community, do better than almost any other industry in the world, it is that we support each other. The cake making industry is one of the strongest and most UNITED global groups that exists.
Except in one area. One area which is for some cake makers is the most important area.
I actually took a deep breath when I wrote MONEY. And hesitated about making it red as it kinda made me wince a bit. You see...I am English and us stiff upper-lipped Brits hate talking about money. We get shy, we get embarrased...we would just rather not talk about money. It is almost on a par with Brexit as a "shhhh don't say that word" topic.
We would rather talk about having a boil on our backside than have the awkward feeling of talking about money. If someone else talks about it we think they are crude and sometimes even verbally we put them down. There will be some people reading this already feeling uncomfortable with the last paragraph.
Worse some people will start getting upset or even aggressive about this post. All of a sudden the UNITY falls away. We suddenly forget we are all in this global community, we are all human beings, we are all in this industry because we love making cakes. We then start to turn on each other and even get angry at what another cake maker is charging, or not charging.
But why are we arguing with each other?
I first wrote this article in 2017 yet I have updated is because last week (May 2019) I read a post on Facebook where one cake maker said to another "you should charge less for your work".
I read another string in my forum when one of the members described how, on facebook again, she was criticised as being "very expensive" by another cake maker for charging £60 for a class. Instead of saying "your class, looks great - let me know if you would like me to help sell some places for you for some commission" or "it looks fab, I hope it fills fast", a fellow caker called her "very expensive". But she didn't stop there. In her subsequent attacking Facebook post (and there was no other way to describe it than attacking), she went on to state "as a fellow baker, I feel that the £60 fee you're charging is extortionate".
Let's look at that word "extortionate" for a moment. Because back in 2012, I had a fellow caker use that word (again on Facebook) about my cake equipment shop with words along the lines of "her shop prices are extortionate". She was urging people to buy from her new shop instead where the prices were all 5p less than mine. I am all for competition but there is a difference between competition and people who use words like "extortionate" to describe fellow cakers. Back in 2012, I looked at the £2.50 charged for colour paste and the £4 for tools. I think around 80% of the things I sold were less than £10. Yes, maybe not as cheap as the huge cake shops with warehouses and millions to invest in stock and staff teams. But not extortionate.
Extortion means greedy, excessive, outrageous, unreasonable, bloodsucking...
Come on cakers who "like" such comments when they see them, who turn a blind eye and ignore it because they don't want to be "involved". Allowing a caker to encourage another caker to charge really low prices does not support them. Knocking prices down destroys careers, destroys livelihoods and destroys individuals who lose confidence as a result. The aim of a community, a global community is to work together - it is NOT to have everyone charging peanuts. If people are allowed to get away with comments like this, ALL cakers out there will be affected. Some then charge so little they make no money and give up? Is that the GOAL?
The pricing unity should be global, hobby or business baker.
As a global community, we should be united in charging the RIGHT prices. We should be supporting each other as we are all in the same boat. Too many cake makers are struggling to get the payment they need for the work they do. They give in and end up charging £20 for a cake that took all morning to make or £100 for a cake that took them 3 days to make. Read that back - £100 for 3 x 12 hour long days or 36 hours of your life. Put another way, that values your life at £2.70 an hour. Quite the opposite of words like extortion.
No caker should be proud to charge £30 for a days work.
Why is this still happening in the cake industry?
As I say in my Advanced Pricing for Profit class inside Pretty Witty Academy, in what other industry do you see people doing this?
Do you see electricians saying "Oh ok then, I know I spent 3 days rewiring your house but I will only charge you £100 when my normal day rate is £150 a day". Do you see people who stack shelves at the supermarket work 10 hour shifts and then agree to be paid £20? Do you see accountants do annual accounts that take them a couple of days and then invoice you for 2 hours work?. No. No. No. You see the opposite.
People who are good at their trade - including the ARTS - get paid well. Joiners, French polishers, Photographers, Artists, Authors....they define themselves with pricing. Those who are professionals charge professional prices. The general public chooses the best photographer they can pay for for their wedding. They don't tell the photographer "What...I thought it would only be £25 for all my wedding photographs". The photographer would simply not accept that as a response.
The general public accepts that this is how much photography costs. Why? Because the photography industry, the joinery industry, the artist industry, the architect industry...ALL OF THEM have as a group educated the public of the value of their skill.
Anyone who enters those industries and undercharges doesn't make it.
All those industries have a standard - a collective understanding that they won't work for peanuts. You cannot find people in those industries who will work for next to nothing unless they are start-ups. But the start-ups know from day 1 that they will put their prices up to correct levels as soon as they are up and running and some business is coming in. They don't keep start up prices for years. Indeed, in some industries they raise their prices after EVERY customer as their experience grows.
What is different?
The cake world, for some reason, doesn't do this. It is really really terrible at asking for the right money. We all do it. Myself included.
I have in the past done crazy things like when I put 552 tutorials on sale for £44.50.....that is CRAZY cheap that it is ridiculous. It takes me a year to produce 60 tutorials and I am selling 4 to 5 years of work for such a low price. The same was true when I charged £89 for a year's access to nearly 1000 tutorials. It was just too cheap and devalued the skills of all the guest tutors inside my online cake school.
When I stand back at this and look at any other online subscription service outside the cake world, I realise how behind the cake industry is. Have a look at the list of Top 50 online tutorial providers in the world across all industries. The average price is much higher than the prices in the cake industry - MUCH higher. When I looked at this in 2018, I realised that I was STILL also guilty of undervaluing my time. I was teaching people that my product should be lower value than it was worth. I am telling you this because I was also falling into the same trap as so many cake makers. It took a careful analysis of my business - and it's position within the world - not just within my own head, that made me wake up and say "stop under selling".
Many many cake makers need to do the same.
But Suzi, no one pays the higher prices?
Not true. Many of the members inside the Academy have been sharing stories recently of how they have, with the massive support inside Pretty Witty Academy, raised their prices.
And guess what.
The customers are still coming and ordering from them. We have goal winners who have successfully raised their prices as we teach how you do that.
Three excuses for not changing prices are an incorrect belief that it will fail, a fear that you will lose all your customers and a lack of time to implement changes. But actually those can just be a veil for fear to try in the first place.
Yes, you can raise your prices and lose customers - but those are not your customers. If you haven't worked out how you find the customers that will pay your prices, then your marketing will probably be targeting the wrong people entirely. The entire process is a web of things you need to do. It is not hard (and if you are struggling we have courses inside Pretty Witty Academy business membership which walk you through it - and they work - I know, because I have seen the members doing it and I have done it).
The Super Market Mantra
Another excuse is the super market one so one of the downloads I created back in 2011 was the "Super market mantra".
The same image or similar images have been flying around Facebook for years. We all know this is true. Yet so many people struggle so much to charge correct prices.
But what if...
But what if we, as an industry, united. What if we ALL started saying "No" to making cakes for peanuts? What if we stopped "liking" comments of cakers who knock other cakers on social media and instead supported each other in charging propert, 21st century prices? What if we said to the ones who attack others about their pricing: "Heh, back off, that cake is great and worth £120 not £60" or "I am so happy for you that you are making money, can you give me some tips to raise my prices too".
If we ALL started pricing according to the time spent and materials used, the whole industry would change. This is because one of the biggest issues for the industry is those PROFESSIONAL cake makers who are running businesses and charging almost nothing for their time. By under-charging we are teaching non-cake maker customers that a cake that takes 3 days to make should be prices around £75. Why? Why would we do that to ourselves? We are hard working people who love what we do. If we take the leap to make our hobby our career and profession, we should be charging properly.
If non-cake makers / the general public started to realise just how long it takes to make a fully decorated cake there would be more empathy and understanding.
It is US - the cake makers - who have the power to make that happen by UNITING in charging sensible prices.
But but but...
I have seen the arguments from professional cake makers that they are really new so don't have the confidence to charge.
But do you see electricians, or artists or architects say this? Do you ever find out they are only on their 5th job? No. They don't mention it because to them it is not relevant. They are trained so they price accordingly.
The fact that self-confidence may come into play in whether you want to call yourself a business is irrelevant....you are a business if you take money and are trying to make a living from it even if not making huge profits. If you are taking money and not a business, you are a charity. Which is FINE if that is what you have chosen to do. I have absolutely no problem with hobbyist or charities giving away cakes for free. I certainly have absolutely no problem with people making cakes for charity. That is awesome. Hobby cake makers are awesome.
But if you are in it as a hobby, is it really a hobby?
When are you a hobby caker?
In my mind, a hobby caker is someone who makes cakes for fun. They do not sell them.
If you are selling your cakes, you don't excuse yourself from being a small business by charging peanuts. You are still a business. And chances are, if you have been a hobbyist for a while your cakes will be amazing.
You may not want a business - and that is fine of course. You are not obliged to turn your hobby into a business. But, IF you are going to take payment for your hobby, please ask for a sensible amount - not £50. When you ask for £50 for a cake that took you a day, 2 days or more, the professional cake industry is damaged. It tells the general public that cake is cheap. That £50 may be a bonus for you but you are damaging a professional cake maker's career by knocking prices down. And, if it is worth £150, why not charge that. Why only charge £50 - just because it is a hobby for you?
Even if you don't need to charge for your own needs, do it to help professional cake decorators.
I won't make a difference. I am just one small home town baker?
If we all said "I don't need to stop using plastic - I only use a little bit", would sea animals stop be affected?
If we all said "I don't need to recycle", would there be a better environment for our kids?
When professional cake makers charge £60 for a cake they spent most of the day making, the customer sub-sconciously thinks "ohh all that for £60" and the benchmark is set.
That same customer may then one day order a cake from another professional but the subsconcious memory will return and the customer will be expecting the professional cake to be £60 as well.
Or the customer will auction off a cake in a charity raffle for £20 - a cake that is worth hundred of pounds. This happened to me many years ago. I made a gravity defying cake for my husband's office for a charity event. It took me 2.5 days. It was amazing. What happened. The man who graciously accepted it raffled it off for £25!!!! He didn't even try and get more. He thought £25 was "brilliant". He could have made so much more money with a bidding system - money that would have helped a charity. It all comes back to the same thing - educating the general public about pricing for cake.
But I have a cake business and people won't pay much?
I have seen the arguments from professionals that "£25 is better than nothing and people in my area wont pay more". They won't pay more because the moment one cake maker in a town agrees to accept £25 for a cake that took them an entire day to make, that cake maker then educates the general public that that is an acceptable price. And the same psychology as described above happens. The customer (quite innocently) thinks that is a "normal" price and then expects that from all cake makers.
Ultimately over a period of years this approach kills the industry. But don't we all want the industry to survive? Don't we all want to be recognised for the amazing art work that we produce on cakes and be valued in society just like photographers, artists, architects and carpenters are - as SKILLED trades people?
Cake Slavery is illegal
Look at it another way...In the UK (and many developed countries), the Government FORCES employers to pay the minimum wage. You cannot employ someone to do a job and pay them less than the minimum wage. It is in fact considered so wrong to do that that it is a CRIMINAL offence to pay an employee less than the national minimum wage - a criminal offence.
Why? Well for a start, in the UK, we passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.... Nearly 200 years ago us humans had worked out that working for little or no pay was WRONG. It is still wrong. Governments make things a criminal offence to try and ensure people do not break the law because it is considered so important that this law is upheld. It is about ensuring people receive a minimum and fair level of treatment.
So why do people who make cakes pay themselves less than the minimum wage? Less than the lowest level the government sets to ensure minimum fair standards of living. Lets take the £25 example. If you make a cake that takes 8 hours to make and you charge £25 that is £3.12 an hour! The national minimum wage in the UK is £8.21.
So if you own a company and you are employed by it, you are technically breaking the law if you are employing yourself and paying yourself less than £8.21 an hour. Makes you think doesn't it?
But wait I hear you say..."I am self employed so that law doesn't apply to me...ha - got you Suzi - you are WRONG"!
WHAT? Did you really just say that. Did you really just say "I am self employed so I should work for £3.12 an hour instead of the minimum wage or more". Did you just really volunteer yourself to return to the hard life of no money for your work - just like 200 years ago before 1833 where people were forced to work for nothing?
You are the boss, you make the rules...why on earth would you give yourself such an awful salary. You have left employment for your dream career, you make the rules now. Make GOOD rules which starts with good pay.
And this is my point. It is a choice. It is not easy. It is hard work getting prices right. But voices are strong in a group. I have thought for many years that there needs to be a re-education of the general public as to the cost of cakes. That education has to be taught by cake makers. Only we can do it...
How do we do it?
I have always said that the best way to run a business is to make friends with local cake makers. So why not do that. Remember that UNITY I spoke about at the beginning. Well do it. Use your strengths.
Get together with your local cake making community. Make a group on facebook for you and your local cake makers where you discuss your troubles with pricing. There may only be a few of you but so what. 100s of small groups of 5 people make an army. A cake army. Join other cake group that exist. Participate in groups or forums and support each other in charging the right prices.
Obviously you cannot just all agree to charge the same, but you can boost each others confidence to charge the right price. You can support teach other by telling people how long it took you to make a cake or how much it cost to make it. You can share these figures so the general public sees them to if you want to.
If you are a hobbyists, you could post your cake pictures with how long it took you. Even if you don't mention money, you could help educate the public as to how long it takes. Because right now, some of the TV shows about cakes make out that cakes are whipped up in a few hours! Imagine if EVERY cake image online was not like this
Imagine if all cake images stated how LONG they took to make. That alone would help educate the public that they are not whipped up in a couple of hours.
You could also fight back when TV production companies or Magazines ask you to make a cake in exchange for "exposure". Absent it being ongoing weekly exposure for years and years, that kind of exposure isn't worth it if you want to actually make money. Being social media famous doesn't pay the gas bill and the mortgage. A one of single bit of exposure doesn't pay.
You can do this!
I am passionate about helping cake makers raise their profit margins. I have been very lucky and fortunate enough to make millions from my cake business.
But I want to help others succeed. I want us all to support each other to grow your businesses. Support each other in encouraging correct pricing, not moaning about "it's not fair". Life isn't fair but you can change it. And, if you work together, if we all work together, that cake army mentality does change things.
Do not support each other in re-creating an mentality like that of the slave labour of the 1700s where people were "expected" to work for little or no money. You deserve better than that. Community over competition and helping each other to rise.
And remember....above all, you have strength in unity.
For more blog posts like this, have a look here.